Museum News

Markets, fairs and felons – the story of Titchfield Market Hall

By 15 November 2016January 26th, 2021No Comments

The early 17th century market hall from Titchfield is a type of building which would have been familiar to 16th and 17th century town dwellers.

It was located in the town’s central market place (known as ‘The Square’) in the High Street, in front of what is now the Bugle Hotel. Its primary use was commercial, providing a covered space for traders to sell their wares on market days but the upper chamber may also have been used as a meeting place for the bi-annual manorial courts.

Bugle Hotel Titchfield

Titchfield High Street, showing ‘The Square’ in front of the Bugle Hotel

Markets & fairs

Markets were held weekly – on a set day and in a set place – and were an important place of sale and purchase in early modern England.

Another type of associated trading institution were fairs, which were held annually on a set date, normally associated with the feast of a particular saint.

Many markets and fairs were established by grant, most often in the form of a charter granted by the king: Titchfield’s annual fair, held on Corpus Christi Day (the Thursday after Trinity Sunday) was established by royal grant in 1447.

In addition to markets and fairs, small market towns like Titchfield had a range of permanent shops, many of which would have clustered around the market square.

The main function of a market hall was to regulate trading activities on market days. Goods sold in the open market had to be weighed by the common balances or scales, and market authorities levied tolls on traders.

Even small market towns had market officers. We know that in 1535 Titchfield had a ‘clerk of the market’ and other towns had toll gatherers, market inspectors, ale and bread tasters (responsible for checking on the quality and price of ale and bread sold in the town) and leather searchers (responsible for checking the quality of skins and hides).

Although market days were usually fixed in the original charter, market hours were determined by the town authorities and selling began and stopped at specified times, announced by the ringing of a bell.

Whilst the primary function of a market hall may have been commercial, many included an upper chamber, which provided a meeting place for the town’s governors, effectively acting as the seat of civic government.

In the case of Titchfield, the town’s governors were men elected by the manorial court. Market halls were also typically associated with instruments of social control; some market halls, like Titchfield, included an integral ‘cage’ or ‘lock-up’ and the town’s whipping post and stocks were likely to be located in the square.

Market and fair days brought an influx of people into a town’s centre. Itinerant traders like pedlars and chapman might set up their stalls alongside local farmers selling grain or fresh produce; merchants met up with suppliers to arrange business deals; travelling players and musicians entertained the public and refreshment was taken at local inns or ale houses.

They were typically lively, colourful, noisy and highly sociable events with a potential for disorder and petty crime.

The early history of Titchfield Market Hall

Evidence for the early history of the market hall is extremely sparse and Titchfield doesn’t seem to have had an active market in the 17th century.

It is likely that the Titchfield market hall was built in 1619 by Henry Wriothesley (1573-1624), who became the third Earl of Southampton in 1581. His reasons for building the market hall are unclear – possibly he was hoping to revive the market.

We know that Titchfield’s market was still in existence in 1535 when it was reported that the clerk of the market was keeping his court at Titchfield and had commanded that no man should sell wheat above 8s a quarter on pain of imprisonment and forfeiture, but at some point after this it seems to have lapsed.

In 1588 William Smith listed 24 market towns in Hampshire in his Particular Description of England but Titchfield was not among them. The erection of the market hall appears to have had little effect on the town’s fortunes and Henry Wriothesley’s son, Thomas, fourth Earl of Southampton, doesn’t seem to have been interested in maintaining it.

The manorial court book records that in October 1654 the market house was ‘in decay for want of repairing’ and the fourth Earl, as lord of the manor, was ordered to repair it at ‘his own costs and charges’. By April 1655 it had still not been repaired and the lord was once again ordered to repair it at ‘his cost and charges’.

Titchfield isn’t listed as a market town in The Chapman and Traveller’s Almanac of 1695, a printed gazetteer of England’s markets and fairs intended for the use of itinerant traders. However, that isn’t to say that the market hall was not being used in the 17th century.

It is likely that the upper chamber was used by the manorial courts, the view of frankpledge (sometimes called the court leet) and the court baron, which were held jointly, usually twice a year (in spring and autumn).

The courts regulated the activities of the tenants, elected borough and manorial officials and acted as a court of record for land transfers. The manorial court was also responsible for regulating trading activities.

Crime & punishment

The manorial court books include numerous references to instruments of public order, including a tumbrel (a cart in which miscreants were placed as a punishment by manorial courts), stocks, whipping post, cucking stool and a cage.

The stocks, whipping post and cage (a free-standing cage rather than the integral cage below the market hall) are likely to have been located in the market square, where they would have been most visible to the town’s residents.

The manorial court books show that there was a free-standing cage in Titchfield in the 17th century, which continued to be maintained after the market hall was built.

The manorial court books do not record who was sent to the cage, whipped or placed in the stocks but presumably someone like Hamlett Glaspoll would have been – in 1615 he was presented as a ‘common disturber of his neighbours and a common drunkard’.

Another inhabitant who may have found himself in the cage for a time was Thomas Bristow who in 1634 was presented for assaulting Robert Hewett. In the case of Glaspoll, his stay in the cage may have been a short one, just long enough for him to sober up. Bristow may have found himself hauled off to the county gaol, pending an appearance for assault before the court of Quarter Sessions or the court of Assizes.

Whipping was used as a punishment for minor crimes such as petty larceny (the theft of items valued at 12d or less). For example, in 1603 Elizabeth Maynard of Linchmere was sentenced to a whipping by the court of Assizes sitting at East Grinstead after being found guilty of stealing a woman’s gown, a pair of sheets and a petticoat.

Whipping was also used to punish vagrants: the Vagrancy Act of 1598 required vagabonds to be whipped by order of a Justice of the Peace or of the parish officers and sent back to their place of birth or last place of permanent residence.

The later history of the Market Hall

Evidence for its later history is very limited. It is shown in its original position in the middle of ‘The Square’ on an estate map of 1753 but in the early 19th century (probably around 1810) it was relocated to the other side of the High Street, behind what is now The Queens Head.

It was probable that this was done at the request of the Turnpike Trust when they obtained powers to repair the highway. By this date, many market halls had become redundant. Moreover, their location in the middle of the street caused an obstruction to the increasing volume of wheeled traffic, and the crush and noise of market days had become distasteful to towns’ more polite inhabitants.

A county history of Titchfield, published in 1908, describes the town centre as follows: There are no buildings of any particular architectural merit, but the square is picturesque, and the Bugle Inn, with its bay windows, gives character to it. The stocks once stood here in front of the inn, and the market house and cage, once in the square, are now set up in Barry’s Charity Yard to the northwest.

By the 1960s the market hall had become derelict and was under threat of demolition. It was offered to the Museum in 1968 by Fareham Urban Council and despite last-ditch attempts by local residents to preserve it in situ, it was dismantled and relocated to Singleton in 1971.

The building, which has been dated by dendrochronology to 1619, was completed in 1974 and now forms the focal point for the Museum’s ‘market square’ area.

Titchfield Market Hall before dismantling and after re-erection at the Weald & Downland Living Museum

Left, the market hall prior to dismantling in 1969 and right, re-erected at the Museum, c1973, in splendid isolation until other urban buildings rescued by the Museum joined it over the years.

Conserving Titchfield market hall

The Museum intends to launch a campaign in Autumn 2019 to restore the market hall, one of the earliest buildings to be saved and re‐erected on the site.

The Museum’s carpenter‐in‐residence, Joe Thompson, says there is evidence of significant fungal attack throughout the building’s timber frame, due to water ingress caused by its relatively exposed position in the Lavant Valley and detailing of the associated building materials.

Since those early days our understanding of timber frame conservation and repair has developed considerably, and observation and interpretation of the evidence for the market hall shows that more decorative architectural devices were used when it was constructed in 1619. For example, there were two additional gables, and decorative boards to the ends of the joists and probably to all of the verges.

The best option for the structure is complete dismantling, followed by repair in our workshop. Demonstrating best practice, we will use digital surveying technology and computer modelling combined with the Museum’s well‐established timber conservation repairs and documentation approach.

If you are interested in supporting the project via a donation, please contact the Museum Fundraising team on 01243 811041 or email fundraising@wealddown.co.uk

This is an abridged version of an article by Danae Tankard, Museum Historian, and the full article can be read in the autumn 2016 edition of our Museum Magazine.